Alumna Lesia Topolnyk wins Prix de Rome Architecture 2022

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Lesia Topolnyk and state secretary of Culture and Media Gunay Uslu. Award ceremony Prix de Rome Architecture 2022. Photo: Aad Hoogendoorn.

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Lesia Topolnyk is the winner of the Prix de Rome 2022, the oldest prize in the Netherlands for architects aged 35 and younger, with an entry inspired by the wreckage site of flight MH17, in response to the theme of ‘Healing Sites’. 

With her design No Innocent Landscape, Topolnyk shows how the landscape that forms the backdrop to such an event is not innocent in itself, but represents a complicated interplay of global and local histories. In this case, Hrabove is not only the site of the attack on MH17, but also of illegal mining activities which negatively impact the region’s nature and environment. Topolnyk uses narrative and construction techniques to deconstruct this relationship in her dark, oppressive design. She argues that trauma processing and reconstruction in such a place can take place only after such a deconstruction, and that architecture can mediate in this.

“Lesia Topolnyk argues that in current conflicts architecture can no longer exercise control by relying on its conventional tools and ways of thinking. With the project No Innocent Landscape, she wants to embrace chaos: not as a distortion, but as the only means by which she can gain insight. She proposes a series of new axioms to break through the blockage of unsolvable issues. The jury considers that it is an unusual achievement to directly question her own role as an architect and designer and to analyse how her profession works.” said the jury.

“The jury praises her courage in detaching herself from the traditional instruments of architecture, especially in the context of an institution like the Prix de Rome. The created exhibition space, with all its smells, colours and sounds, positively surprised and intrigued the jury. The jury members note that this is the only exhibition space that not only represents a place in need of healing, but has itself become a place of healing.”

Toplnyk’s entry, together with those of the other nominees – Arna Mačkić, Dividual (Andrea Bit and Maciej Wieczorkowski), and Studio KIWI (Kim Kool and Willemijn van Manen) – will be on display at Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam until 9 April 2023. Zico Lopes of the Rotterdam agency Spatial Codes is the spatial designer of the exhibition. Designers Alex Clay and Karin van den Brandt of the agency Lesley Moore provided the graphic design. Mals Media contributed a video about the design process of each nominee.